Image
Inside a hot air balloon

 

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

 

The new path to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales

What is the SQE?

 

The SQE was formally launched by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on 1 September 2021 and replaces the LPC route to qualification as a solicitor for those who have not already begun their qualification journey. This means that from 1 September 2021, if you have not completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for:

  • the Common Professional Examination (CPE)/Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
  • the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
  • a period of recognised training (PRT) - also known as a training contract

...then you will need to qualify through the SQE route 

For those with either a qualifying law degree (QLD) or exempting law degree (ELD), you must have completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit by 21 September 2021 to continue on to qualify through the LPC route. (Your QLD or ELD must start by 31 December 2021 latest.) If you don't fall within this category, you too will need to qualify through the SQE.

There is no prescribed route to follow under the SQE, however, to reach the point where you can qualify as a solicitor you must:

You will have to determine what you need to do to achieve the four requirements set out above, and in what order you do them, however, you will need to have completed SQE1 before you can take the SQE2 assessment. The guidance from the SRA also suggests that the SQE2 assessment will be more straightforward for those candidates who have accumulated at least some practical experience.

It is completely up to you how you choose to prepare for the SQE assessments. You could opt for self-study, online courses, university courses which are eligible for government funding or take stand-alone SQE specific preparation courses. You will, however, have to demonstrate through the SQE assessments that you have mastered the knowledge and competence expected of a newly qualified solicitor.

What do I need?

Image
leather books

Degree or equivalent

An UK undergraduate degree (or equivalent) must be held before a candidate completes the qualification route as a solicitor and makes an application to be admitted onto the roll of solicitors.

This criteria can be satisfied in a number of alternative ways, such as:

  • a degree awarded by a non-UK institution which has been certified as equivalent through a UK ENIC Statement of Comparability
  • a regulated apprenticeship in England and Wales rated at level 6 (or above)
  • an accredited qualification rated at level 6 (or above) of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications
  • or demonstrate work experience equivalent to a UK degree.

Exact details of this requirement are set out by the SRA here.

SQE 1 Assessment 

The SQE1 assessment tests candidates on their functioning legal knowledge. It covers the breadth and depth of the law of England and Wales which is currently taught on the Qualifying Law Degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law (both detailed above). The assessment is split into two and includes the following disciplines:

1. Business Law and Practice; Dispute Resolution; Contract; Tort; Legal System of England and Wales; Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services.

2. Property Practice; Wills and the Administration of Estates; Solicitors Accounts; Land Law; Trusts; Criminal Law and Practice.

The SQE 1 will take the form of two 5 hour assessments, split over two days (6 1/2 hours each day). 

SQE 2 Assessment

The SQE2 assessment is concerned with testing legal skills and draws upon knowledge covered under the SQE1. It is most comparable to the LPC qualification and is more vocationally orientated than the SQE1. You can only book and sit SQE2 after passing SQE1, or if you have been granted an exemption by the SRA for the whole of the SQE1.

The SQE2 will examine the candidate on client interview and attendance note/legal analysis, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and negotiation in the following practice areas: Criminal Litigation, Dispute Resolution, Property Practice, Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice, Business organisations, rules and procedures.

The SQE2 assessment is approximately 14 hours and taken over five half days. The first SQE2 assessment will take place in April 2022. Booking dates for the first SQE2 assessment are pending but locations are confirmed.

Further information about timings of the assessments can be found on the SRA SQE site

It is important to note that the SQE assessments are centrally administered by Kaplan and therefore need to be booked separately to any courses you choose to enrol on.

 

How can I prepare for the SQE assessments?

 

Learn about the different courses available to help you qualify through the SQE

 

Find out more

Image
Preparation
Image
View of out of office window

Qualifying Work Experience 

Qualifying work experience (QWE) is any experience of providing legal services that offers you the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor. Work experience can be obtained in England or Wales or overseas, but it must be signed off by a qualified solicitor:

It can be gained in one block of time or in stages, so long as it is in no more than four organisations. It can be paid or unpaid work and could include:

  • on placement during a law degree
  • working in a law clinic
  • at a voluntary or charitable organisation such Citizen Advice or a law centre
  • working as a paralegal
  • on a training contract.

The SRA have produced an infographic highlighting its versatility.

To help aspiring solicitors record their work experience and demonstrate that it meets the required competencies, the SRA has developed a useful template.

There are no requirements about when to undertake QWE; you can do it before, during or after taking your SQE assessments although the SRA suggests it will be helpful to have undertaken QWE before taking the SQE2 assessment.

You must register your completed blocks of QWE with the SRA and you must have completed your QWE before you apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.

Further information about QWE is available on the SRA website.

FAQs

What do I need for my SQE application?

Academic documentation

If you are a current undergraduate in your final year, you must attach a transcript to your form showing the courses you have studied in your first two years and the marks awarded so far.  If you do not have, and cannot obtain, a copy of your current transcript, please attach a screenshot of your marks to date taken from your student portal.  The institutions you apply to will then follow up with you directly on receipt of your application.

If you are a graduate, you must attach a copy of your final transcript and/or degree certificate to your form to your form.

For further information on transcripts, please refer to our FAQ 'What is a transcript?'. 

Personal statement

Most course providers require a personal statement. You can either type this into the form or upload as an attachment to the reason and personal statement section of the form.  Please see our FAQ on What is a personal statement and what should I include in it? for further information on what to include in your personal statement.

Reference

Some course providers require a reference.

If you are a current undergraduate or recent graduate, you are encouraged to nominate a current academic tutor who can comment on your suitability for post-graduate study and a career in law, and also provide an expected final grade for your current studies if possible.

If you cannot nominate an academic tutor, you should nominate a current or recent employer to provide a reference in support of your application. Please see our reference FAQs for further detail.

Passport details

If you are applying from outside of the UK and need a visa, you will need to provide your current passport number and expiry date.

Which institutions can I apply to through LawCAB for an SQE prep course?

Please refer to our course finder to identify the courses which will help prepare you for the SQE assessments.

Should I choose to qualify through the QLD/GDL+LPC or the SQE?

If you know that you are eligible to qualify either through the QLD/GDL+LPC or the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), you will need to determine which route will best serve you, taking into account your current education, employment status, the financial implications and your future employment aspirations. 

First, make sure you fully understand the steps you would need to complete for each route in order to achieve qualification. Visit our LPC and SQE sections for a full outline of the qualification requirements for each.

Outlined below are a few of the factors you might want to consider when deciding which route to take.

GDL/LPC with Training Contract versus SQE with QWE route
If you choose the GDL/LPC route, you will need to complete a 2-year training contract before you can qualify as a solicitor. This is often the biggest stumbling block for aspiring solicitors because there are far fewer training contracts available than the numbers applying for them; many pass the LPC to find they are unable to complete their qualification because they cannot secure a Training Contract. Some applicants secure Training Contracts early on to cover the cost of their GDL and/or LPC. In the short-term, firms may be slow to take up the SQE and so you may find that if you do secure a Training contract this year, you are asked to undertake the GDL/LPC qualification route.

Flexibility
The GDL/LPC route is ‘tried and tested’ and familiar to employers across the legal market in the UK, and in other jurisdictions, however, the flexibility of the SQE means that not only are you able to choose how you prepare for the SQE assessments, but also how you achieve your qualifying work experience (QWE); under the SQE you are not restricted to needing to complete a fixed two year Training Contract.  Rather, you could gain your 2 years of QWE in up to four different work placements, which could include for example time spent working at a law clinic and/or working in law firms. You could do this before, during or after your assessments and so you might find that any experience you already have could count towards your qualifying working experience.

Further information about the SQE can be found on the SRA's dedicated SQE website.

I have a qualifying law degree
If you have a QLD you can still apply for the LPC which is a year-long course (if taken full-time) and would then need to be followed by a period of recognised training (Training Contract) (2 years) before you qualify as a solicitor. The cost of the LPC varies depending on where you do it. If you secure a Training Contract the firm may cover or contribute towards this cost.

Time: 1 year LPC + 2 years Training Contract = 3 years (4 years if studying part-time)
Cost: up to £16,750 (depending on course provider and location)

Alternatively, you can continue your journey through the SQE route instead. It is likely you will still need to undertake additional preparation to pass the SQE 1 assessment but you might find that a short SQE course, independent study or even relevant work experience is sufficient. Or you can choose a fuller, post-graduate course such as an MA or LLM which incorporates SQE preparation. Bear in mind that any courses you do may not include the cost of the assessments themselves and so you will need to factor this in to any budgeting.

Time: 6-24 months depending on the type of course and mode of study you choose + 2 years QWE which can be done before, during or after your assessments.
Cost: £3,980 for the two SQE assessments + course costs.

I have a non-qualifying law degree
Under the old route, you have to do the GDL prior to taking the LPC. Please bear in mind that if you do wish to qualify through the LPC, you must have accepted an offer by 31 August 2021 for a place on a GDL course that starts by 31 December 2021 and retain evidence of this for your future LPC application.

Time: 2 years plus 2 year Training Contract = 4 years (6 years if studying part-time)
Cost: up to £30,000 (depending on course providers and location)

When you consider the SQE route, it is worth looking at whether your law degree has covered some of the subjects that come up in the SQE 1 assessment, particularly those traditionally known as the seven foundations of legal knowledge. If so, you might feel that a short SQE preparation course, independent study and/or relevant work experience is sufficient to get you through the assessments and could potentially save you the cost of a full law conversion course and LPC. Alternatively, a longer post-graduate course incorporating SQE preparation could also be an attractive option, still potentially saving you time and money, and giving you that additional academic qualification of an MA or LLM, for example.

Time: 6-24 months depending on the type of course and mode of study you choose + 2 years QWE which can be done before, during or after your assessments.
Cost: £3,980 for the two SQE assessments + course costs.

I have a non-law degree
If you have never studied law previously, or you have gained your law degree outside of the UK, a GDL/law conversion course offers a comprehensive foundation in law, with the option of adding a Masters qualification on top, enabling those that pass to go on to complete the LPC. Please bear in mind that if you do wish to qualify through the LPC, you must have accepted an offer by 31 August 2021 for a place on a GDL course that starts by 31 December 2021 and retain evidence of this for your future LPC application.

Time: 2 years plus 2 year Training Contract = 4 years (6 years if studying part-time)
Cost: up to £30,000 (depending on course providers and location)

If you opt for the SQE route, you could consider a postgraduate course, such as an PgDL, MA or LLM incorporating SQE preparation, which would fulfil the same ‘law conversion’ role as the GDL. You could also choose a shorter SQE preparation course, but if you have no previous experience in the law either through your studies or through work, you might feel you want a longer course with a post-graduate law qualification to add to your CV.

Time: 6-24 months depending on the type of course you choose + 2 years QWE which can be done before, during or after your assessments.
Cost: £3,980 for the two SQE assessments + course costs

How long are the courses?
While the GDL and LPC are year-long courses (or 2 years if taken on a part-time basis), the length of the SQE courses depends on the type of course you choose to do. So, if you have already completed a law degree and/or have experience working in a legal environment, a short SQE preparation course may be all you want to do.

Alternatively, regardless of whether you have previously studied law, a longer course which enables you to study at postgraduate level, for example incorporating an MA or LLM with preparation for the two SQE assessments included, could provide you with a stronger and more confident footing in the law.

Applying for courses via LawCAB
Find out which providers offer which types of courses in our Where can I study section and see suitable courses using our course finder.

Funding your studies
If funding your training is a concern, you may also wish to consider a solicitor apprenticeship where your employer will cover the cost of any courses and assessments whilst paying you a salary, so you can earn while you learn. There are graduate apprenticeships available, as well as ones open to non-graduates.

What should I be looking for generally in a SQE preparation course?

Universities and other course providers are offering a variety of courses to help you prepare for the SQE assessments, either through online, part-time or full-time face to face teaching. These may be short preparation courses, or longer postgraduate courses, including at Masters level. The following provides some points to consider in terms of the content and additional features of a SQE preparation course.

SQE1 preparation courses
Consider a course with content that:

  • covers the seven foundation areas of academic law (found in a qualifying law degree), if you have not done a UK law degree, or content that refreshes essential legal knowledge, if you have done a UK law degree
  • covers vocational, practical legal subject areas (similar to stage 1 of a LPC)
  • regularly and repeatedly develops and tests on Single Best Answer (SBA) questions in exam conditions, as these are a core part of the SQE1 assessment.

SQE2 preparation courses
Consider a course with content that develops core legal skills (oral and written), allowing you to practise those skills and receive constructive feedback to prepare for SQE2. Skills include client interview and attendance note/legal analysis, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and negotiation.

What else to look for in a SQE preparation course?
You may also, depending on your existing legal experience, want a course that:

  • offers employability support and employability skills development
  • provides access to legal work experience opportunities that could be 'banked' as QWE
  • offers additional workshops/tutorials to develop broader career-long skills in e.g. leadership, conflict management, commerciality
  • provides coursebooks/guides to support off-course revision and self-study of SQE1 & SQE2 subject areas and related SBA questions.

For more detailed guidance on the right course for you, see our FAQs, targeted at specific points in your academic journey e.g. which course should I do if...:

  • I have an LPC
  • I have a QLD/GDL
  • I have a non-qualifying UK law degree / a non-UK law degree
  • I have a non-law degree.
Can I qualify through the SQE if I have done the LPC?

If you completed your LPC before 1 September 2021 and have not been able to secure a period of recognised training (PRT), but believe you have acquired the equivalent experience and skills stipulated by the SRA, you have the option of going through the SRA's Equivalent Means route by applying for a Period of Recognised Training exemption. The SRA’s fee for completing an assessment of the evidence you submit is £600.

It is worth referring to the SRA for further information about applying for an exemption from the period of recognised training if you are interested in qualifying through this route.

If you do not think you are in a position to apply for a PRT exemption, you could instead ask the SRA to recognise a combination of qualifying work experience and passing the SQE2 assessment as equivalent to the period of recognised training. If you decide that you would like to qualify through this route, you would need to inform the SRA after 1 September 2021.

Once you have successfully passed SQE 2 and have your QWE approved, you will be able to apply for admission as a solicitor. Please note you will still need to meet the SRA’s character and suitability requirements.

If you have completed an LPC but don't fall into the categories outlined above, you could still choose to qualify through the SQE by completing both SQE 1 and SQE 2 assessments and two years of qualifying work experience.

What course should I do if I already have an LPC?

Under SQE, course providers are free to offer SQE preparation courses as determined by them, enabling them to offer a greater variety of courses tailored to specific applicant needs. This means that there are (and will be even more so in the future) lots of different style courses out there and you will be able to choose one that suits you, taking into account the studies you have already done and how you want to study as well as the areas of interest you might have.

As you have already completed a QLD/GDL and your LPC, you may want to look at some of the short SQE prep courses on offer by way of a top-up to help you pass the SQE assessments. Alternatively, you might prefer to build on the academic credentials you already have and opt for a masters qualification which includes SQE 1 and/or SQE 2 preparation.  

Use our course finder to identify courses which are suitable for you based on your needs and desired outcome.

It’s important to remember that the SQE assessments are separate from the courses and are managed centrally by Kaplan. Unless your course specifically indicates that the cost of the assessments is included in your course fees, you should factor in the cost of the assessments on top of your course fees.

What course should I do if I already have a GDL/QLD?

If you already have your GDL or QLD you can continue to qualify through the LPC route, provided you meet the eligibility requirements as outlined in the SRA's transitional arrangements.  Use our course finder to identify Legal Practice Courses on offer.

You also have the option of qualifying through the SQE - visit our SQE section for full information about how to qualify through this route.

As part of your qualification through the SQE, you need to pass two SQE assessments.  You can decide yourself how you want to prepare for the assessments - there is no prescribed route for doing this and so you are free to choose a course that suits you, taking into account the studies you have already undertaken as well as the areas of interest you might have.  Course providers will be offering a much greater variety of subjects in their new SQE courses including areas such as project management and legal technology, gearing applicants up for the needs of 21st century law firms. Do take the time to explore the courses on offer and what they include.

As you have already have a grounding in law, you could consider doing a short SQE preparation course or, if you want to build on your academic credentials, you could choose a masters course which includes preparation for the SQE assessments.

When you are choosing a course, keep a close eye on the course outcome as it is really important to understand what the course will provide you with, taking into account your educational background, aspirations for your career in law and what your next steps will need to be once you have completed the course. 

When it comes to course fees, refer to the relevant course pages of the university websites to help you identify the best option for you based on your needs and the kind of training, opportunities and academic qualification you are looking to gain.  Some courses may offer you the chance to work in a law-clinic and others may offer qualifying work experience placements.  These are all factors to consider when you are comparing course fees and making your choices.

It’s important to remember also that the SQE assessments are separate from the courses and are managed centrally by Kaplan. Unless your course specifically indicates that the cost of the assessments is included in your course fees, you should factor in the cost of the assessments on top of your course fees.

Use our course finder to explore the courses on offer and what stage in your qualification journey they will take you to.  

What course should I do if I have a non-qualifying UK law degree, or a law degree obtained from outside the UK?

From 1 September 2021, if you want to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, you will need to do so through the SQE.  Please refer to our SQE section for full information about how to qualify through the SQE.

As part of your qualification through the SQE, you need to pass two SQE assessments.  You can decide yourself how you want to prepare for the assessments - there is no prescribed route for doing this, and so you are free to choose a course that suits you, taking into account the studies you have already undertaken as well as the areas of interest you might have. 

If you are looking for a solid academic background in law to add to your CV and have not previously studied law in the UK, you could consider a GDL/law conversion course.  These courses are suitable for both aspiring solicitors and barristers and so also work really well if you are not yet sure which qualification route you want to take. A GDL/law conversion will provide you with a thorough grounding in law from which you can go on to undertake additional SQE preparation if you want to be a solicitor or a Bar Training Course if you want to be a barrister.  

There are also SQE courses on offer for aspiring solicitors which are tailored to non-law graduates and will enable you to sit SQE 1 and/or SQE 2 without the need for further preparation.

When you are choosing a course, keep a close eye on the course outcome as it is really important to understand what the course will provide you with, taking into account your educational background, aspirations for your career in law and what your next steps will need to be once you have completed the course. Some will be SQE assessment ready, some might offer the option of SQE modules while others will not include specific SQE assessment preparation and you will need to undertake some form of additional top-up course before you sit the assessments.

When it comes to course fees, refer to the relevant course pages of the university websites to help you identify the best option for you based on your needs and the kind of training, opportunities and academic qualification you are looking to gain.  Some courses may offer you the chance to work in a law-clinic and others may offer qualifying work experience placements.  These are all factors to consider when you are comparing course fees and making your choices.

It’s important to remember also that the SQE assessments are separate from the courses and are managed centrally by Kaplan. Unless your course specifically indicates that the cost of the assessments is included in your course fees, you should factor in the cost of the assessments on top of your course fees.

If you hold a non-UK degree, you will need to provide a UK ENIC Statement of Comparability when you apply to the SRA for admission as a solicitor. The SRA would not require this, however, from a candidate who has a UK LLM at the point at which they apply for admission as a solicitor.

Use our course finder to explore the courses on offer and what stage in your qualification journey they will take you to.  

When are the SQE assessments and how do I book my place?

The first SQE1 assessment is in November 2021 and the first SQE2 assessment will take place in April 2022. Booking for the first SQE1 assessment opened in July 2021 and closed by 26 September 2021.

Further timings of the assessments can be found on the SRA SQE site.

Kaplan is managing the SQE assessments, which will take place at Pearson VUE test centres across the UK and internationally.

The assessments are completely separate from any courses you might do to prepare for them, and need to booked independently by you (unless your course provider has specifically indicated that the assessments are included in the cost of the course fees and are being booked for you).

All those wanting to sit the SQE assessments will need to register online with the SRA SQE site prior to booking the assessments - registration and bookings for the assessments open in July 2021.

Once you have sat the assessments you can expect the results to be received as follows:
SQE1 - within 6-10 weeks of sitting the assessment
SQE2 - within 14-18 weeks of sitting the assessment

A useful webinar for candidates about the SQE assessments is currently available.

 

How much does the SQE cost?

The cost of the SQE assessments is as follows:

SQE1 - £1,558 (10 hours of examinations taken over 2 full days, testing functioning legal knowledge)

SQE2 - £2,422 (14 hours of written and oral tasks taken over 5 half-days testing both practical legal knowledge and skills)

Total fee for taking both SQE assessments: £3,980

The SRA publish full cost information on their SQE website

Please keep in mind that this is the cost of the assessments only and does not include the costs of any courses taken to prepare for the assessments. Applicants will need to check with course providers what their course fees include.

What is Qualifying Work Experience and how do I get it for the SQE route?

Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) is the term used for the work experience component of the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) route to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which regulates solicitors in England and Wales has provided a wide range of resources to explain what QWE is, how long it should last for, where it can be undertaken, and how it should be recorded and signed off. This includes a simple QWE visual to explain the main components of QWE as well as a helpful webinar for SQE applicants.

In summary:

  • QWE is any experience of providing legal services that offers you the opportunity to develop some or all of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor
  • QWE can be obtained in England or Wales or overseas
  • it can be completed in up to 4 different organisations
  • QWE must be 2 years' full time or equivalent
  • it can be paid or unpaid
  • it does not have to cover a range of areas of the law, or 'tick off' all the competences, but you must be aware that SQE1 and SQE2 will cover a broad range of topics and so you should be prepared for this if your QWE is focused in only one area of the law.

It can be completed, for example:

  • as part of an undergraduate degree 'sandwich year' placement
  • in a law clinic as a volunteer
  • in a Citizen's Advice Bureau or doing other charitable or pro bono legal work in law centres or charities
  • whilst working as a paralegal in one or multiple firms
  • whilst working as a solicitor's apprentice
  • as part of a traditional training contract ('Period of Recognised Training') in a City or large national or regional firm, or in a high-street firm or with a sole practitioner.

Simulated legal services are not eligible as QWE.

You must record your QWE yourself, but it must be signed off by a solicitor of England and Wales or Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). They do not need to be working in England or Wales but must have knowledge of your work in the role.

When looking for organisations to do your QWE at, think about a placement that:

  • offers diverse and varied, rather than limited and/or repetitive, legal tasks
  • helps you develop your professionalism and ethical behaviours
  • develops your understanding of standard procedures for e.g. conflicts of interest checks, anti-money laundering checks, information security.
  • enables you to learn from experienced role models and be supervised by appropriate individuals
  • supports your career goals.

You may even use past roles if they helped you develop some of the competences needed to practise as a solicitor and you can get them signed off by an appropriate individual.

Find out where to gain QWE

A range of websites and resources are available to help you to find firms offering roles that can be used to gain QWE.

LawCareers.net Beginner's guide to a career in law contains information about firms that take trainees, organised by geographical region, in addition to summary guides on those firms.

To apply for positions with certain legal firms, you may find the following traditional Training Contract links useful:

Some firms will have summer deadlines, whereas others will recruit throughout the year. Use firms' specific recruitment webpages to check deadlines and requirements.Many firms currently recruit applicants to traditional trainee roles up to two years in advance of joining a firm, and there is nothing to indicate QWE positions will be any different in large City or national/regional firms. Some firms will expect their trainees to have completed both SQE1 and SQE2 assessments in advance of being appointed to gain their QWE. However, as the SRA suggests it may be more helpful for QWE to be completed after SQE1 and before SQE2, this approach may not be adopted by all firms.

For firms and other organisations that do not offer traditional training contracts, you should make use of relevant websites and contact organisations about positions available, as well using as any personal contacts you may have, such as:

If you have further questions about QWE, the SRA Q&A section on QWE may provide answers.

Note: The UK government Home Office graduate immigration route will be of interest to international applicants as you get towards the end of your UK-based course of study, if you wish to work in the UK after you graduate.